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Dietary interventions that reduce mTOR activity rescue autistic-like behavioral deficits in mice

Wu, J;de Theije, CG;da Silva, SL;Abbring, S;van der Horst, H;Broersen, LM;Willemsen, L;Kas, M;Garssen, J;Kraneveld, AD;

Enhanced mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling in the brain has been implicated in the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Inhibition of the mTOR pathway improves behavior and neuropathology in mouse models of ASD containing mTOR-associated single gene mutations. The current study demonstrated that the amino acids histidine, lysine, threonine inhibited mTOR signaling and IgE-mediated mast cell activation, while the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, valine had no effect on mTOR signaling in BMMCs. Based on these results, we designed an mTOR-targeting amino acid diet (Active 1 diet) and assessed the effects of dietary interventions with the amino acid diet or a multi-nutrient supplementation diet (Active 2 diet) on autistic-like behavior and mTOR signaling in food allergic mice and in inbred BTBR T+Itpr3tf/J mice. Cow’s milk allergic (CMA) or BTBR male mice were fed a Control, Active 1, or Active 2 diet for 7 consecutive weeks. CMA mice showed reduced social interaction and increased self-grooming behavior. Both diets reversed behavioral impairments and inhibited the mTOR activity in the prefrontal cortex and amygdala of CMA mice. In BTBR mice, only Active 1 diet reduced repetitive self-grooming behavior and attenuated the mTOR activity in the prefrontal and somatosensory cortices. The current results suggest that activated mTOR signaling pathway in the brain may be a convergent pathway in the pathogenesis of ASD bridging genetic background and environmental triggers (food allergy) and that mTOR over-activation could serve as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of ASD.